Farinaz Khosrawani, an employee of the Tara Hotel in Mahabad, a mostly Kurdish city in northwestern Iran, leaped to her death from the fourth floor of the hotel building Monday, according to BasNews in Iraqi Kurdistan. Eyewitnesses and local media said Khosrawani jumped to avoid being sexually assaulted by a military officer.
Khosrawani’s death sparked demonstrations and violent clashes with security officers in Mahabad.
Although the local government declared a state of emergency and Iran’s security forces and its Revolutionary Guards deployed units to Mahabad to control the situation Thursday, residents have continued to demonstrate. Saturday marked the third day protesters have taken to the streets to call for justice and the prosecution of the military officer. One media outlet reported at least 25 people had been wounded since Thursday.
Activists posted photographs on Twitter of the burning of the hotel by demonstrators and the violent crackdown in Mahabad:
One media outlet reported security officers had fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.
Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who is living in exile in Paris, said in a statement she supported the demonstrations. The NCRI is a constituent of an umbrella opposition group that includes five political organizations.
The Mahabad protests inspired Kurds living in Iraq, Syria and Turkey to demonstrate themselves. Kurds across the three countries marched in their respective cities, holding signs with the phrase “JusticeForFarinaz”:
While locals were protesting in Mahabad, thousands of academics and teachers gathered in Iranian capital Tehran this week to call for better wages and the release of Rasoul Bodaghi, a teacher who has been imprisoned for five years on charges of propaganda and collusion, multiple media outlets reported.
At least 6,000 people were at the demonstrations in Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the teachers’ protests were “conspiracies of the enemies and vengeful people against the Islamic regime,” media outlets reported.
Despite the violence in Mahabad, the Iranian government has not issued a public statement on the situation, but religious hardliners in the country have denounced the protests. The radio silence in Tehran appears indicative of a larger struggle taking place between President Hassan Rouhani and the religious leaders in the nation.
Leading human-rights advocates say there has been a clear increase in the number of activists arrested, detained and tortured because of their demonstrating and activity on social media sites, particularly Facebook, since Rouhani took office in August 2013. The arrests and violence in the streets came as Iran’s hardliners have struggled to keep tabs on a growing population that wants greater freedom of speech, a right Rouhani promised he would fight to achieve when he was elected.
Human-rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on the Iranian government to scale back its violence against protesters and its detention of innocent civilians. In April, Human Rights Watch released a report accusing Iran of detaining Ahwazi Arabs, including several children in Khuzestan province in the southwestern part of the country.
The U.S. has not commented on the current violence in Iran or its government’s treatment of demonstrators.
Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers, including the U.S., have long been in negotiations over an agreement on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Last month, the parties announced a deal framework, one that would require Iran to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and significantly scale back the number of installed centrifuges. In exchange, the U.S. and European Union would lift sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.
The framework indicates sanctions associated with Iran’s ballistic missiles, support of terrorism and violations of human rights will remain in place. To date, however, the sanctions related to human rights have done little to stop the mass arrests and abuses of protesters, according to human-rights organizations.